Adding Provisos to Jesus’
Teaching on Divorce & Remarriage

 By Greg Gwin

In the ongoing controversy about “mental divorce,” some have charged that “provisos” have been added to the teaching of Jesus on this subject. A “proviso” is a stipulation or condition that is added to modify a statute, law, or contract. We agree that this has happened. The question, however, is this:  Who is adding provisos?

Here’s what Jesus said:

“Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.” (Luke 16:18)

We affirm what Jesus taught, that is, the put away woman cannot remarry. But there are those who are teaching that she can remarry – provided (notice the proviso) that she was innocent of fornication when she was put away. IF this is the case (the 1st provision they want to insert), then she can engage in a “repudiation” or a “disavowal” of her husband IF he commits fornication either before or after the divorce (the 2nd provision they want to add), thus freeing her to remarry. 

Do you see it? Do you see the addition of stipulations to the simple statement of Jesus? We honestly believe that a person who might read Luke 16:18 for the first time, with a completely unbiased mind, would never reach the conclusion that these brethren have tried to twist into this inspired verse. Such a person, with no preconceived notions or prejudice, would conclude what Jesus obviously taught – the put away person cannot remarry. 

We ask:  Who is adding provisos?

Again, Jesus said:

“And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”  (Matthew 19:9)

Jesus clearly taught, and we believe, that the put away woman is not authorized to remarry. In contradiction to this, some are saying that she may remarry IF certain conditions (provisos) are met. IF she was innocent of fornication at the time of the initial putting away (condition #1), and IF (condition #2) her husband commits fornication (before or after the divorce), she may then “reject” him and remarry. These things are simply not in the text, and they must be added by those who are teaching that the put away woman – in some cases – may remarry.

Again:  Who is adding provisos?

Once more, Jesus said:

“But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”  (Matthew 5:32)

The Lord was clear, and we have no trouble understanding Him – the put away woman cannot remarry. This text clearly addresses the situation of a woman who was innocent of fornication when she was initially put away. Notice, her husband “causeth her to commit adultery” – she was not guilty before the divorce. Now, the unbiased reader would rightly and obviously conclude that she, even though innocent at the time of the divorce, cannot remarry without sin.

But wait! Some brethren think she can marry again – at least in certain cases. IF she did not remarry (stipulation A) until AFTER her husband committed fornication (stipulation B), assuming, or course, that he did, in fact, commit fornication (stipulation C), she could then “repudiate,” “reject,” or “disavow” him and remarry without sin. To draw such a conclusion requires some vigorous additions to the Scriptures.

We are forced to ask, again: Who is adding provisos?

All of these “provisos” that some are adding to the simple, clear, and direct teaching of Jesus are based upon an unproven and unprovable  assumption – namely, that a put away person can still put away their mate. Nowhere in the Bible do we read of such a thing, and nowhere in the Bible can we read of the procedure or method one would employ to accomplish it.

It has been said that “there are as many puttings-away as there are persons putting away” and “both mates made their vows, and now both can disavow.” (Bill Reeves & Tim Haile, Review of Joel Gwin’s debate charts – parts 5 & 7). These statements are mere assertions based upon human reasoning. Where is the biblical proof? In actual point of fact, these false assumptions (that a put away person can still put away their mate) also amount to additional provisos that some would add to the teaching of Jesus on marriage, divorce, and remarriage.

Yes, some are adding provisos to what Jesus taught. But the ones guilty of doing it are those who are teaching that the put away person can, in some instances, remarry another while their bound mate lives.   

- Greg Gwin


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Last Updated:  Thursday, January 26, 2006 12:41 PM